Monday, November 4, 2013

Summer Review: Mason's Gotcha Day and More!

We were so busy this summer there was hardly time to post. Both boys are now in school! Zach is in Kindergarten and Mason started pre-school this fall. Both boys love school and are having fun making new friends.

Mason's First Gotcha Day

In May, we celebrated Mason's first Gotcha Day Anniversary! Mason has come so far in a year. When he's not making mom laugh with his devious giggle, he likes to wrestle with Dad and Zach, ride his bike, and play with Hot Wheels, trucks and tractors. He also loves going to the farm for combine and tractor rides. As we're driving about, he likes to point out all of the "fast cars." That is, the sports cars and classic cars. Somehow he knows the difference!

Family Vacation

In July, we went to Wisconsin for a vacation. We stayed in a cabin at Three Bears Resort. For three days we pretty much had the indoor water park to ourselves, as most visitors opted for the outdoor water park just down the road. 

Of course we made good use of the outdoor park for a day, as well. 

And built a fire at our cabin and made smores!

This was our first official "family vacation" with four in the family. God has blessed us greatly. 

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.  --Psalm 127:3

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mason's Pharyngeal Flap Surgery

Mason had his surgery at Boystown Hospital last Tuesday, April 2--one week ago. He stayed the night two nights in the hospital recovering. He's still in quite a bit of pain, mostly when eating. He's still on a "soft diet" which has included pancakes, eggs, yogurt, applesauce and ice cream. He's not been very hungry or thirsty, probably because it hurts each time he swallows. He walks around with a mouthful of saliva and holds it as long as he can before he swallows or it leaks out his mouth! He hasn't tried putting his hands or toys in his mouth during the day. That pain must be a good reminder for "hands out"! At night we do put his arm restraints on so he doesn't put his blanket into his mouth like he loves to do. That makes sleeping pretty uncomfortable for him.

Here's a diagram of the before/after details of the surgery:

I think his speech sounds less nasal than before, just judging from the little bit of talking he's doing. We'll see what he sounds like after the swelling goes down.

We go back to see the surgeon on April 23rd. The easy part is done--the surgery. Now we continue on the hard road to recovery. It will all be worth it, that's for sure. We've seen evidence of what this surgery can do for speech through Zach.

Thanks for all your prayers and help during this time!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happy Easter

One year ago we were wrapping up loose ends---getting Zach's schedule ready for family & friends to care for him while we were in China; packing our suitcases for China; wondering what size of clothes Mason would be wearing; trying to hold back the excitement of FINALLY get to meet our son.

So much has happened since last Easter. Mason joined our family. He has blossomed into his own unique being. That somber, serious, scared boy is one of the past. He is now Mr Jokester & Mr Arnery.  He is constantly talking now a days. We don't always know what he's saying, but that doesn't stop him! He loves to ride his bike. He continues to love vehicles of any sort. He can make sound affects for pretty much any vehicle there is.

The little guy has gotten jipped out of his celebrations since he's been home though. His birthday party was low key and involved a "pudding" cake since he had just had his palate repaired. His upcoming Gotcha Day Celebrataion (April 9) will be hindered a bit as well, as he'll be recovering from his next surgery. He's having his pharyngeal flap surgery (along with ear tubes and repair of fistula) on April 2.  We'll still find some low key way to celebrate--probably involving ice cream!

Check out how he's changed in the last year. These stuffed animals are the only ones that have NOT changed in the last 12 months:

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm  100:5

It's cool when I stop and think about how God's timing to bring Mason into our lives was during the celebration of Easter. Last Easter was the first Easter that I truly understood the meaning of Easter. For so many years Easter had been about going to church and being reminded of God's love for me.....that I somehow deserved his love because of all I had done for him---you know, serving others at church, adopting two orphans, being a good person. What I came to realize a year ago was that I was far from deserving of God's love. I was (and still am) a sinner. I deserved to die. All the "good" things I did in my life did not matter to God. The only way I could be made right with God was for Christ to die for me, and for me to embrace Him as my Lord & Savior.  For Ephesians 2:8-9 says that "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." What an eye opener! It is so backwards from what our society tells us---be a good person and you'll go far. Not in the case of eternal life. Being good will not bring eternal life.

My prayer this Easter is for you to come to understand the true meaning of Easter. That your eyes, ears and hearts would come to understand why that cross was so important. And boy, is it ever freeing and life changing! Happy Easter!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chinese New Year 2013

Happy Chinese New Year (a bit late)!  We celebrated with several other families at a local restaurant. Zach's preschool teacher also read the book by Karen Katz, My First Chinese New Year to his class while Zach passed out red envelopes filled with chocolate coins.

We had a follow-up appointment with the cleft team yesterday. Since Zach's pharyngeal flap surgery in November, his speech has greatly improved. Things are just starting to click for him. He's just started figuring out the correct airflow for 'sh' and 'ch' sounds, which is huge! Speech no longer is nasal. His 's' sounds are still a bit distorted, so we will be trying a new therapy technique for those. My college friend, Lori, gets to be his speech therapist, then I help him practice at home. We are so thankful for our great cleft team and Lori's help!

Mason also saw the cleft team yesterday. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with his speech. He's just got so much going on---articulation errors due to his history of cleft, but also other articulation difficulties. Thankfully we got some wisdom from the cleft team speech therapist yesterday, so I feel like we've got some direction now. Mason's speech is still very nasal. His surgeon wants to do another surgery to help that. This would be the same surgery that Zach just had--a pharyngeal flap. It will help so his palate can do its job when he's speaking--to keep that air from escaping from his nose while his talking. We can expect that surgery to be in the next 1-2 months, depending on insurance authorization and scheduling. Back to yogurt, pudding and ice cream here in the Kragel home:)  Mason will also be getting a new set of ear tubes during that surgery, as his other ones are not doing their job. Oh, and the fistula (the small hole) in the palate that did not heal shut from his last surgery will be stitched up during this upcoming surgery. The poor guy has got a long way to go speech wise, but he 's come so far in the first 3 years of his life......he's traveled half way across the world, not to mention learn a new language, come to enjoy new food, and adjust to his crazy new family!

We've managed to find time to do some fun things--not just speech therapy and doctor appts! Zach took a Zumba class last month. He's got quite the dance moves!

 We've also spent some time at the science center, digging for dinosaur bones.
We've also made time to lounge in our jamma's, eat valentine cookies, and dream about more snow. Sounds like we're gonna be getting a load of snow tomorrow, so the boys will be happy. We have a new sled to try out!
Hope you are all enjoying your winter--with or without snow!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year! Happy 2013! So much happened in 2012, it's hard to believe. A year ago at this time we had never even met our Mason. We wondered what he would be like. Would he be quiet or a shatter box? What would he think of us? What would he think of Zachary? How would Zachary adjust? When would we get to finally hold him? We had so many questions. We kept on trusting that our Lord would take care of the details, and he did! Now, just 9 months later, we know what our Mason is like. We know that Zach would not love his brother at first, but he would grow into it. We know that Mason would not love us at first, but he too would grow into it. We know that God hand picked our family and gave us the patience we needed to wait and work through all the adjustment and attachment concerns.

2012 was a year of many firsts for Mason. First time eating any food besides congee, eggs or apples. First time in a train or plane. First time swimming. First time sledding. First birthday party, although he just turned 3. First Christmas. First and only forever family.

I've attached photos of some of Mason's recent firsts. Check it out:
 Zach has been soaking up all the fun that comes this time of year. He's been in heaven with all of this snow! He also enjoyed counting down the days til Christmas on 3 calendars! Legos and spiderman were a big hit this Christmas!

Hope you all not only took time to spend with family & friends this Christmas, but also took time to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. It's not all about the gifts. Well, I guess it's about ONE GIFT. The gift of Jesus. God sent Jesus onto this earth so that we might be saved. I'm praying that each one of you have opened and taken this gift in.